Chinese authorities published a special statute Thursday that provides for punishment of malpractice and fraud involving relief for the May 12 earthquake in southwest China.
The quake took at least 68,516 lives, injured 365,399 people, left another 19,350 missing and rendered more than 15 million people homeless.
The new regulation was jointly issued by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and the Ministry of Supervision (MOS).
The two departments ordered their local counterparts at various levels to make the anti-earthquake battle a primary task and to investigate and punish wrongdoing without hesitation.
The regulation prohibits embezzlement and fraud in the distribution of relief, the trading of relief goods, and other official malfeasance.
Institutions and individuals, leading officials in particular, who are found to have engaged in such activities will be severely punished by the Communist Party and the government.
Those who broke the law will have their cases referred to judicial departments for prosecution, it said.
As of Thursday, 37.3 billion yuan (about 5.33 billion U.S. dollars) in cash and goods had been donated by domestic and overseas donors.
The National Audit Office (NAO) had said immediately after the May 12 earthquake that it would audit the use of cash and goods for quake disaster regions, to ensure resources were strictly managed and used in a proper and timely manner.
Auditors will investigate and deal with any attempt to hide, intercept or misappropriate donations, said the NAO.
(Xinhua News Agency May 29, 2008)